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Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

Many, but not all, complaints for judicial review are heard in the Superior Court. The following information outlines appeals in Superior Court. To be sure, check with the agency involved to find out whether this procedure is the one you should follow.
The court will usually make a decision within a few weeks of your hearing in Superior Court.

Superior Court

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For more information, please contact the court nearest you. Superior Court locations 

The Details of Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

What you need for Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

See the 30A Administrative Appeals flowchart for a visual overview of the process and timetables and the Administrative Appeals checklist for a list of required documents and steps.

In order to begin your appeal, you’ll need to file a Complaint for Judicial Review of Administrative Decision and a Civil Action Cover Sheet in the Superior Court Clerk's Office, and also pay a filing fee. You can either deliver the documents and filing fee in person or send them by certified or registered mail. Either way, the clerk must receive the documents by the deadline required to file the appeal. 

The appeal must be filed in the Superior Court within 30 days from the date you receive notice of the agency's final decision. It’s very important that the clerk receive the appeal by the deadline. Even if you mail your appeal before the deadline, the court will dismiss your appeal if the clerk’s office doesn’t actually receive your complaint before the deadline.

Preparing your documents

Complaint for Judicial Review 

Your complaint identifies the decision you’re appealing and the ground for your appeal. Type or neatly hand-write your complaint, and base your complaint on the facts and circumstances in your own case. Looking at a sample complaint will help. Several samples are available at a Trial Court Law Library or Court Service Center

The possible grounds for an appeal under G.L. c. 30A, § 14(7) are that the agency’s decision was: 

  1. In violation of constitutional provisions; or 
  2. In excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; or 
  3. Based upon an error of law; or 
  4. Made upon unlawful procedure; or 
  5. Unsupported by substantial evidence; or 
  6. Unwarranted by facts found by the court on the record as submitted or as amplified under paragraph (6) of this section, in those instances where the court is constitutionally required to make independent findings of fact; or 
  7. Arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. 

In most cases, as required by G.L. c. 30A, § 14 , the judge will decide a case based only on the evidence presented at the administrative agency hearing. Additional testimony and new evidence will be considered only if the court decides it's appropriate under G.L. c. 30A, § 14 (5) or (6). 

Civil Action Cover Sheet 

The online Civil Action Cover Sheet form is fillable. After typing in the information, print out a copy of the form to give or mail to the Superior Court Clerk’s Office. You can also print the blank form, or get a blank form from a Trial Court Law Library, Court Service Center, or Superior Court Clerk’s Office, then neatly hand-write the information. 

  • Fill in the county where you’re filing your complaint. 
  • You’ll receive the docket number when you file your complaint, so leave that blank for now. 
  • Fill in the information about the parties: the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (agency). 
  • If you’re proceeding without a lawyer, leave the boxes asking for “Attorney” information blank. 
  • Complete the section - “Type of Action and Track Designation.” The “Code No.” for this type of case is “E02”; the “Type of Action” is an “Appeal from Administrative Agency, G.L. 30A,” and the “Track” is “X.” Since a jury claim can’t be made in this type of case, select “No” under “Has a jury claim been made?” 
  • The “Statement of Damages” section can be left blank. 
  • Identify any related cases in the space provided. 
  • Sign and date the form.

Fees for Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

In addition to these fees, you may be required to request and pay for a transcript of the administrative agency hearing testimony if you’re claiming that the facts the agency found are not supported by substantial evidence. If you request a copy of the transcript of the administrative hearing from the agency, it will be your responsibility to pay for it. If you order an additional transcript for yourself, you will be charged for 2 copies. If you can’t pay court fees or costs, you may be able to have the state pay for them. See Indigency (waiver of court fees) for more information.

Name Fee Unit
Filing fee (including security fee and surcharge) $275 each
Summons Fee $5 each

How to file Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

You can file an appeal of a state agency decision in the Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, the Superior Court in the county where you (the plaintiff) or any other plaintiffs in the same case live, or in the Superior Court in the county where the agency has its main office.

You can file an appeal of a state agency decision in the Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, the Superior Court in the county where you (the plaintiff) or any other plaintiffs in the same case live, or in the Superior Court in the county where the agency has its main office. Filings should be sent by certified or registered mail.

Next steps for Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

  1. Summons and service of process

    Once you file your complaint with the court, you must “serve” or deliver a copy of the complaint and a “summons” to the other party in the way the rules require. A summons is a form that you purchase from the Superior Court Clerk’s Office. It orders a party to appear and defend your complaint. You'll need to purchase one summons for each party that you serve. 

    Summons. Complete the caption. The caption lists the plaintiff (you) and the defendant or defendants. The defendant should be the agency that issued the final decision. If some other person or entity was a party in the proceeding, that person or entity may also need to be a defendant. Remember to put the docket number that the clerk gives you on the summons. Address one summons to each defendant in your case, and fill in your contact information. Make a copy of each summons. You will serve a copy of the summons to each defendant, and keep the original for filing with the court. 

    Service means delivering a copy of the documents that you filed in Superior Court, and the summons that you will get when you file your papers in Superior Court, to every defendant in your case. You need to serve the agency and the Boston office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, and any other defendant. If you’re not sure who else was a party in the agency proceeding, ask the agency for a list. 

    You have 90 days from the date you filed your complaint to file the proof of service with the court. 

    To serve the Attorney General of the Commonwealth or any agency, mail a copy of the documents by certified or registered mail. To serve individual parties and corporations, you must follow the rules of civil procedure. For more information, see Rule 4 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure. Keep the original summonses and the receipts you get from the post office. When the green cards (return receipts) come back to you, attach them to the original summonses, and file those with the Superior Court Clerk's Office.

  2. Additional preliminary matters after filing and service of process

    Depending on the reason for your appeal, you may need to request and pay for a copy of the transcript from the agency within 30 days of serving the complaint. For example, you’re required to file a transcript in your case if you’re claiming that the facts the agency found aren’t supported by substantial evidence. For more information, see Learn about transcripts in administrative appeals

    The agency is responsible for filing the Administrative Record as an answer to your complaint. The Administrative Record includes the pleadings filed by the parties in the agency proceeding, evidence the agency relied on to make its decision, the agency’s final decision, and a transcript if you’ve requested one. The agency must file its Administrative Record within 90 days from the day it receives your complaint. 

    Superior Court Standing Order 1-96 allows you and the agency to file certain motions raising preliminary matters no later than 20 days after the agency files its answer. Read the Standing Order and related rules to see if these motions apply to you.

  3. File a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

    The next step is for you to file a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure. Unless parties have filed motions raising preliminary matters, you must serve this motion on the agency within 30 days after you receive the agency’s answer. Type or neatly hand-write your Rule12(c) motion, as well as a memorandum explaining why you think the motion should be granted. Looking at a sample motion will help. Samples are available at your local Trial Court Law Library or Court Service Center.

    The way you file and serve your Rule 12(c) motion is different from the way you filed and served your complaint. You must follow Superior Court Rule 9A. After you serve or send the agency your motion, the agency has 30 days to send you its response. Since you’re filing the motion, you are responsible under Superior Court Rule 9A for putting together a “9A package,” and filing it with the court. The 9A package includes your motion, the agency’s response (or your affidavit that says you didn’t receive a response), and a list of all the papers in the package. You must file the package with the Superior Court Clerk's Office, and send the agency a written notice that you have filed the package with the court. 

    You must also file a Certificate of Notice of Filing with the court. This is a note to the court that says (under the penalty of perjury) that you sent the agency written notice that you have filed the 9A Package with the court. 

    The court will schedule a hearing on the motion after it receives your 9A package. At the hearing, you’ll be able to tell the judge in person why you think the agency decision was wrong. 

    For more information on the procedures and filing deadlines of administrative appeals filed in the Superior Court, see Superior Court Standing Order 1-96.

More info for Appeal an agency decision in Superior Court

Decision of the court

The court may either:

  • Agree or affirm with the agency’s decision
  • Remand or return the matter for further proceedings before the agency
  • Set aside or modify the agency’s decision 
  • Order or compel any action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed 

The court will usually make a decision within a few weeks, and will mail the decision to you.

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